Families enjoy STEM projects

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It’s not unusual for students to draw in art class, but at a recent family art night at Braelinn Elementary, it was the robots that were creating works of art.

The school’s art teacher Ellen Mitchell holds a family night twice a year so that parents, students and their siblings can work together to create art. The first one this year was all about bringing art and science together by building an artbot, a motorized contraption that creates art as it wobbles across a piece of paper using markers for legs.

Mitchell received a grant from the Fayette County Education Foundation that helped her purchase enough materials for over 90 parents and students to create artbots this fall. She was among the 17 teachers throughout the school system who received grants from the Foundation for projects that incorporated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Fayette County Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the Fayette County Public School System by providing funding for academic projects and initiatives not included in school budgets. Teachers collectively received over $5,500 in STEM grants this year for projects that will introduce, encourage and excite students about potential careers in STEM fields.

In addition to Mitchell, teachers receiving STEM grants include Charlie Harper, Tess Keller, and Jon Schoening, Inman Elementary, Tower Garden Growing; Lisa Martin, Spring Hill Elementary, Circuit Mania; Larry Singleton, McIntosh High, Virtual Reality-Autodesk Revit in Oculus Rift; Guy Serapion, Huddleston Elementary, You are My Sunshine; Wendy Keener and Ann Lenderman, Rising Starr Middle, Artbots 8th grade; April DeGennaro and Teri McGraw, Peeples Elementary, SPRK Engaged Learning with Sphero Robots; Martha Trisler and Bethany Lambert, Sandy Creek High, Sustainable Mini-Ecosystem; Holly Monahan, Rising Starr Middle, Weather Station; Gail Frantz, Peeples Elementary, Makey Makey Circuitry; Stephanie Lemons, Kedron Elementary, Blinky Project; Debbie Fannin, Inman Elementary, STEM Activities and Science Stations for Pre-K and Kindergarten.

Mitchell used her grant money to purchase the simple materials needed to create the artbots, hobby motors, battery packs and batteries, plastic cups, and markers. And, since it is art class, the bots needed some flair, so wiggle eyes, feathers, beads, and buttons were also provided.

Essentially, the artbot helps connect art to technology. The project involves creativity, but it doesn’??t stop there. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are also used in designing the robot, plus students learn about movement, building, and circuitry. Mitchell pointed out the importance of including the arts in STEM fields.

“STEAM education incorporates the ‘A’ for the arts, recognizing that to be successful in technical fields, individuals must also be creative and use critical thinking skills, which are highly developed through the arts,” she said.